Sunday, December 1, 2013

Answers & The Bible

I saw this internet meme that said that in the Bible were the answers people seek. I disagree with this statement. The Bible doesn't give one answer to any question. It rather tells us what questions to ask. This then limits us in terms of our responses. If one wants to claim a Biblical faith, one must speak to the issues the Bible brings up. One can come up with any number of answers to the given questions, and indeed finding one over-arching answer to any question would really kill faith, by removing the sense of mystery and the living God one reaches out to, and replacing it with a human construct. People build models and this is right and good. But to worship the model or to believe that one has found one over-arching for-all-time answer in that model is idolatrous. God will always be bigger than our thoughts about God.

But this doesn't mean we just go off willy-nilly in any direction we want. People cling to the Bible as the end-all be-all of answers because they fear that without some limiting factor that human whim will replace God. This is a justified concern, and I believe in a Biblical faith. The Bible should act as a limiting factor, but it acts as a limiting factor by asking the right questions, not by giving specific answers. The Bible is a collection of conversations, and one enters into those conversations creatively by responding to the questions asked.

For instance, in the Old Testament, there is an over-arching conviction that God created the universe. The Bible gives varying images and puts forth varying ideas as to how God created the universe. But the over-riding question, the thread that ties the images and ideas together is the question: "How did God create the universe?" This is the question the Bible asks. That question limits our responses. We cannot assume the universe is independent of God, that it self-creates. Nor can we assume that there are multiple Gods as it is Yahweh's work and His alone that is at issue in the question. We may, however, offer any number of answers to this question, related to or perhaps even completely different from the images we find in the Bible. It is the Biblical conversation that matters, not the particular answers that are offered (which isn't to say that they don't have anything to teach us.)

Similarly, in the New Testament, an over-arching question is "How did God save us in and through Jesus Christ?" The New Testament is guided by principles like the idea that humans cannot save themselves, that God alone can save us, and that Jesus Christ is our savior. Different writers make sense of these convictions in different ways. There is no one end-all, be-all idea as to HOW God saves us in Jesus. But that God did save us in Jesus is central. It is up to us to weed through the possibilities and come to our own ideas as to how all this works. But to be a Christian is to just believe that in Jesus God saved us. Again, it is the conversation that matters.

So while I reject the idea that the Bible has all the answers, I embrace the Bible as the foundation of my faith, and Christian faith in general.

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